|Musical Style: Melodic Rock||Produced By: Johnathan David Brown & Greg X. Volz|
|Record Label: Myrrh||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 1986||Artist Website: Greg X. Volz|
|Tracks: 10||Rating: 75%|
|Running Time: 46:37|
Greg X. Volz contributed the lead vocals to four well known albums by the melodic rock band Petra - Never Say Die, More Power To Ya', Not Of This World and Beat The System - before parting ways with the group in order to pursue a solo career. On his first solo outing, The River Is Rising, Volz moves in a commercially accessible hard rock direction with a sound certain to appeal to fans of Charizma, Guardian (Fire And Love era), Leviticus (Knights Of Heaven era), Shout, Watchman and, last but certainly not least, Petra. Volz, a classic tenor in the truest sense of the word, contributes a high pitched and melodic flavored voice with very fine range and dynamics. Guitarist Kirk Henderson and keyboardist Carl Marsh were brought in to round out the project, while guest appearances were made by the likes of Phil Keaggy, John Lawry (Petra), Matthew Ward (Second Chapter Of Acts) and Mark Farner (Grand Funk Railroad).
The River Is Rising showcases a highly polished production job with immaculate and almost over produced sounding sonics. Just the right amount of rhythm guitar complements an effective mix of lead guitar and bass. Keyboards enhance without detracting from the albums sound. Only the drums, coming across on the flat side, fail to make the grade.
After "Barrier" takes off to a combination of keyboards and programmed drums, an upfront mix of rhythm guitar drives the song strong and steady to an infectious chorus backed by vocal harmonies. Henderson spices things up with several seconds of energetic lead guitar work.
Once a near perfect blend of rhythm guitar and keyboards initiates "Joyous Grave", the keyboards drop from the mix as the song reaches its first verse. A crisp rhythm guitar is left to buttress a chorus with a catchy refuse to go away hook. The keyboards return, however, to fortify the rhythm guitar during a minute long instrumental passage. "Joyous Grave" talks about hope in the life of a Christian:
Though it’s dark all around me
I believe when I pray
That the door that's shut above me
Is gonna open to the day
Soon you're gonna wake me from this joyous grave...
The bass guitar plays a prominent role in the mix of the groove flavored "Livin' For The Bell". Getting underway to a bass solo, the song advances at an upbeat tempo until the rhythm guitar moves to the front of the mix to reinforce a chorus delivered in a hard hitting manner. Henderson nails a brief but aggressively delivered guitar solo.
An amalgamation of keyboards, drums and bass propels the melodic rock of "Still Waters" from start to finish. While quite solid musically with a very fine chorus, I cannot help but think the song would have stood out in a more noteworthy fashion if shored up by a crisp sounding rhythm guitar. "Still Waters" is a song about faith:
When I'm shaken by my trials and lose my way
When I'm stumblin' in the darkness watchin' for the day
Will it ever come
When I'm thirstin' for Your presence I begin to pray
Slowly moving forward to a blend of keyboards, bass and drums, "All I Can Do" picks up in pace when the rhythm guitar kicks in and takes it to a good non-stop hook filled chorus. Henderson contributes a sharp sounding guitar solo supported by a punchy bass line. "All I Can Do" deals with perseverance in the face of trials and tribulations:
And tho I walk thru the valley of the shadow of death
I will fear no evil/I know by His power He will give me that rest
Which passes understanding
All I have to do for Him to pull me thru
Stand on the Word and He'll fight the battle
The keyboards at the start of "Heaven Is Within You" accentuate the catchy guitar riff that enters the mix several seconds later, the two conveying the song in upbeat fashion until it slows for a chorus in which the rhythm guitar plays a reduced role. Thirty seconds of fluid lead guitar helps place the song among the albums stronger tracks.
The catchy melodic rock of the albums title track commences to sweeping keyboards that fade to a reduced role in the mix at the start of its first verse. Advancing at a mid-tempo pace, a clean sounding blend of bass guitar and keyboards carries the song to a strong commercial flavored chorus. The only drawback to "The River Is Rising" comes in the form of its lack of a guitar solo.
The quickly moving combination of piano and bass opening "Break Out Of The Trance" abruptly drops from the mix as it slows to a crisp rhythm guitar at the start of its first verse. Picking up in pace, the song moves on to a chorus held back by vocal harmonies placed way too forward in the mix. The lack of a guitar solo, once again, is the only complaint worth noting.
Beginning slowly to a blend of keyboards and rhythm guitar, the hard rocking “Hold On To The Fire” progresses in a guitar driven manner until it culminates for a chorus underlined by just the right amount of catchy background vocals. Phil Keaggy brings out the best in the song with his superlative lead guitar work.
Keyboards introduce the ballad "Man Life You" before it picks up in pace as a touch of lead guitar helps carry it to a chorus dealing with the issue of Christ-likeness:
I wanna be a man like You, but my heart won't face the task
I wanna be a man like You, but I tremble when I ask
Oh the Light that shines in the darkness
All that's good and true
Take me from myself and make me new
The River Is Rising stands out as the most guitar driven project Greg X. Volz has been associated with, the album holding up in a noteworthy manner by combining Volz's terrific voice with a highly refined production job. Heavier numbers like "Barrier", "Joyous Grave", "Livin' For The Bell", "All I Can Do", "Heaven Is Within You" and "Hold On To The Fire" are worth the price of the album alone. If you enjoy melodic hard rock but require something with a bit more muscle than Petra, then you will not be disappointed with The River Is Rising.
Please note that while Volz's 1988 follow up effort Come Out Fighting moves in a more keyboard based melodic rock direction, it features an absolute killer cover of Aerosmith's "Dream On".
Review by: Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “Barrier” (4:33), “Joyous Grave” (4:26), “Livin’ For The Bell” (3:51), “Still Waters” (5:03), “All I Can Do” (4:39), “Heaven Is Within You” (4:37), “The River Is Rising” (5:17), “Break Out OF The Trance” (3:38), “Hold On To The Fire” (5:07), “Man Like You” (5:23)
Greg X. Volz – Lead Vocals
Kirk Henderson – Guitars
Carl Marsh – Piano, Synthesizers, Keyboards & Drums
Jimmy Lee Sloas – Bass
Phil Keaggy – Guitars
John Lawry - Guitars